How to raise a happy baby

Happy baby. Raising your baby is one of the most important things you’ll ever do – and you may be wondering how to make sure they’re stimulated, thriving, and happy. It’s fairly simple, but not easy: Care for their basic needs, give them love and attention, talk and read to your baby, stimulate their senses, have fun together – and take care of yourself, too.


You don’t have to be a child development expert to give your baby a great start in life. Research confirms what we’ve known all along: Love, attention, and basic care are what your baby needs and wants. To help your baby reach their full potential, and grow into a happy and productive person, follow these steps.

Shower your baby with love and attention (happy baby)

Scientific evidence shows that love, attention, and affection in the first years of life have a direct and measurable impact on a child’s physical, mental, and emotional growth. Love and touch also help your baby’s brain develop.

How do you show your love? Hug, touch, smile, encourage, speak to, listen to, and play with your little one often.

Physical closeness is soothing to babies, and many love spending time snuggled up to you in a carrier, wrap, or sling.

It’s also important to answer your baby’s cries, especially in the first six months or so, when experts say it’s impossible to spoil a baby. Tend to your baby’s physical needs as soon as possible, and be aware of their needs, such as being hungry, too warm, or uncomfortable from a wet diaper.

When you respond to your baby’s needs, your baby quickly learns to associate you with relief from their discomfort. For example, if your baby is hungry and cries, and you immediately go to them, they see your face, hear your voice, smell your scent, and then are fed. Soon, your baby will feel comforted whenever they see, hear, or smell you.

Responding to your baby when they’re upset (as well as when they’re happy) builds trust and a strong emotional bond. This sense of security and trust will be beneficial to your baby as they develop and throughout their life

Take care of the basics

A baby needs to be healthy so they can learn and grow. Take your baby to regular checkups, and keep their immunizations up to date.

Sleep is important for your baby too. Your baby’s brain cells make important connections during sleep, which help with learning, movement, and thought. These connections help your baby understand what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell as they explore the world. While babies are notorious for unpredictable sleep, you can help your little one get more shut-eye by creating consistent naptime and bedtime routines.

Breast milk or formula provide all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months. Breastfeeding has many benefits for babies, including reduced risks of asthma, diabetes, obesity, respiratory sickness, ear infections, diarrhea, and SIDS.

If breastfeeding isn’t a good fit for you and your baby, there’s no need to feel guilty. Your baby can thrive and be healthy on formula as well. And when your baby’s ready, you can start introducing a variety of solid foods into their diet with advice from your baby’s pediatrician.

Talk to your baby

Research shows that children whose parents speak to them extensively as babies develop more advanced language skills than children who don’t receive much verbal stimulation.

Talk to your baby as you diaper, feed, and bathe them. They’ll respond better if they know the words are directed at them, so try to look at your baby while you’re speaking. Don’t worry about saying anything profound. Just describe what you’re doing: “Mommy is putting warm water in the tub so we can clean you up.”

Parents and other adults naturally use “parentese” – a way of speaking to babies in simplified sentences and phrases with a high-pitched voice. Studies have shown that this kind of speech helps babies learn language. It’s not a “baby talk” of made-up words and phrases, though – it’s grammatically correct speech, which is important for language learning.

Read to your baby

Make a point of reading to your child from day one. Reading aloud is one of the most important things you can do to build your child’s vocabulary, stimulate their imagination, and improve their language and social skills. It’s also just a good reason to sit and cuddle your baby!

Choose colorful, sturdy books for babies. As you read, you can talk about the story and pictures. As your child gets older, ask them questions about the book to give them opportunities to think about what they’re learning and to talk to you about it.

Stimulate your baby’s senses

Your child needs to be exposed to different people, places, and things to learn about them. Every new interaction gives them information about the world and their place in it. Even the simplest daily activities can stimulate your baby’s development. Here are some ideas:

  • Play interactive games (such as peekaboo and patty-cake), and go on walks and shopping trips together.
  • Choose toys and objects for your baby with different shapes, textures, colors, sounds, and weights.
  • Put on your favorite music during playtime, or sing lullabies when you put your baby to sleep.
  • Babyproof your home so your baby can explore without constantly hearing “no” or “don’t touch.” For example, put childproof locks on all the cabinets in the kitchen except one. Fill that cabinet with plastic bowls, measuring cups, wooden spoons, and pots and pans that your baby can play with safely.
  • Let your baby practice conversation skills over a video chat with Grandma or another relative.

Children can be overstimulated easily, so don’t feel like you have to interact with your baby 24 hours a day or try to engage all their senses at once. Your child may enjoy playing independently with you nearby.

Pediatrics discourages TV or screen time for babies and toddlers younger than 18 months – and that includes having the TV on in the background. This is in part because infants don’t learn as well from digital screens as they do from real-life interaction. One exception to the no-screen-time rule for babies is video chatting with family or loved ones.

Challenge your baby

When an activity doesn’t come easily to your baby, they have to figure out a new way to accomplish the task. Don’t frustrate your child with toys or activities that are beyond their abilities, but give them opportunities to stretch a little so they master new skills.

If your baby is attempting to open a box, for example, resist the urge to do it for them. Let them try first. If they continue to struggle, show them how it’s done, then give them back a closed box so they can try again on their own.

Happy people are often those who have mastered a skill. When your baby first figures out how to get the spoon into their mouth or takes those first shaky steps, they learn from their mistakes, gain persistence and discipline, and eventually experience the joy of succeeding due to their own efforts.

Your baby also reaps the reward of gaining recognition from others for their accomplishment. Let them know when they’ve done a good job. Most important, they discover they have some control over their life: If they try, they can do it.

Have fun with your baby

Although a colorful crib mobile and their first taste of applesauce may bring a smile to your baby’s face, what makes your baby happiest is you.

Connect with your baby and play with them. If you’re having fun with your baby, they’re having fun. Play creates joy, but play is also how your child develops skills essential to future happiness. As they get older, play allows them to discover what they love to do – build villages with blocks, make “potions” out of kitchen ingredients, paint elaborate watercolors – all of which may point them toward interests they’ll have for a lifetime.

Teach your baby to share and care

As your baby matures, they can be taught – even in small ways – how satisfying it is to help others. This will help bring them a sense of meaning in their life as they grow.

You can teach your child the satisfaction of give and take, even as an infant. If you give them a bite of banana, let them do the same by feeding you a piece. If you brush their hair, give them a chance to brush yours. Show them how happy their generosity made you feel.

These small moments can nourish a sensibility toward sharing and caring for others. As your baby grows into a toddler, simple household chores, such as putting their dirty clothes in the hamper, can help a young child feel that they’re making a contribution.

Take care of yourself

There’s truth in the saying that a happy parent makes for a happy baby, so do what you can to take care of yourself. Get some exercise every day (even if it’s just going for a walk with your baby in the stroller), eat nutritious food, and try to get the sleep you need – whether that means going to bed earlier or squeezing in a nap during the day.

Find ways to share the household and parenting responsibilities with your partner, and if you’re a single parent, surround yourself with people who can help and support you.

Prioritize taking some time for yourself. Being a parent – especially an involved and active one – is tiring, and you need time to recharge.

If you’re overwhelmed caring for your baby or you’re feeling down, find someone you trust to talk to. Most women experience the baby blues after childbirth, and about 1 in 8 develop postpartum depression (PPD). Tell your doctor if:

  • You feel intense sadness or anxiety.
  • You’re not able to care for yourself or your baby.
  • You’re experiencing mood swings, intense anger, or excessive crying.
  • You no longer enjoy the things you usually do.

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